Running Disney v. Non-Disney

I’ve done a lot of events over the past 2.5 years. A lot…probably more than I should have, but that’s a story for another day.

This post is about Disney events versus Non-Disney events. I’m only going to be talking about events that are 10k or longer since that is all I have run with Disney. I have a lot to say about 5ks and fun runs, but again…story for another day.


I thought I’d break it down into categories to compare: Pre-race day/weekend, Expo, Race Start, Race Course, Race Finish, Post-Race, and Price/Value.

The races:

2011 Nike Women’s Marathon San Francisco (Half)

2012 Disney Tower of Terror 10-miler

2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon

2013 Hershey 10k

2013 Nike Women’s Half Marathon D.C.

2013 Disneyland 10k

2013 Disneyland Half Marathon

2013 Hershey Half Marathon

2013 Philadelphia Marathon Weekend (Half)

2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (Full)



Pre-Race Day/Weekend:

I ran my two Nike half marathons and the Hershey 10k through Team in Training so they took care of registration. I did receive some pre-race email information, but it was limited. I am not sure if non-TNT runners receive more info or not, but there isn’t much to talk about with those.

I find that registration for any race is relatively easy. I am not a big fan of how quickly the Disney races have been selling out lately. I think a lot of this has to do with their allowance for early registration for special groups. Perhaps they should consider a lottery system for future races? I know a lot of other races have converted to lottery picks — which is why I’m not running the Nike DC half this year.

I don’t feel there is much difference in pre-race emails from disney to non-disney. I am FOREVER edgy for more information and information sooner.

I do feel like Non-Disney races tend to have essential information posted a bit earlier — course map, expo info, etc. I get very frustrated with not-knowing this important info until 3-4 weeks before the race like Disney has been doing lately.

Best Pre-Race Day: It’s a tie…




Disney definitely does an expo well. There are usually lots of vendors, great signage and lots of fun little extras. I was seriously disappointed with the two Nike expos I’ve been to. There were not a lot of outside vendors and very few “freebies.” I love a good sample freebie … (maybe that’s why I love Costco so much??).

Disney seems to be working out the kinks as their participant numbers continue to grow. They take runner feedback seriously and adjust as necessary. This is a huge plus. Many of the other expos have either been very limited (Hershey is only 2500 runners) or just look like mass chaos.

Overall, I kind of loathe the expo. I like that many runs have been putting the necessary stuff at an easily accessible area so you can avoid the huge crowds and nonsense if you want. I really wish they would find larger venues and spread things out a little, but I know there’s a cost/value factor on the organizers part that must be considered.

Winner: Disney by a landslide



Race Start

I love race starts. Disney gets points for the fireworks, but they are long and repetitive if you’re not in one of the front corrals. And, if you run more than one Disney race.

The Philly marathon/Half was an awesome start. Granted my wave’s start song was not the most empowering, but they changed it up each time which helped those of us in the back deal with the long (and I do mean looooong) wait to the start. I also liked giving the Mayor a high-five as I crossed the start line!

Nike does an awesome job with the start line. The music rocks and everyone is so hyped up.

I am giving a huge plus to the later start time most Non-Disney races have. A 230 wake-up call so the parks can get cleared…yeah that sucks.

I feel like Hershey shouldn’t even be considered. With only a small number of runners everyone starts at the same time. Its a little chaotic and very informal, but kind of nice (homey).

Winner: This one goes Non-Disney. The later start time and variety at other race starts is what pushes it over.



Race Course

Seriously? Is this even a question? Who can beat running through Disney parks? And with Disney characters and they have TONS of support along the course (food, drinks, cheer crowds, entertainment).

I was disappointed with the Disneyland Half course, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as mile 11 of the Philly Half when I was dragging beyond all belief and there was NO ONE along that mile to cheer you on. Disney always makes sure their runners are not out there alone and that counts for a lot when you’re not an elite runner.
As a side … we are looking at running a marathon in November that has water/food every 2 miles for the first 20 miles and then every mile after that. I like the consistency of knowing how often the water stops are. Disney’s are a little random and that can be difficult if you train a certain way. Especially since the course maps come out so late so you can’t even train according to the course map (you can refer back to the year before, but that doesn’t guarantee it will be the same on race day).

Also — because you run on Disney property, they are able to add additional stops or support along the course at the last minute. Several of the last Disney races I’ve done have seemed to add water stops because of high temperatures. That kind of control is really nice and an added bonus for beginner runners who aren’t as adaptable to changes in temperatures or water intake.

A downside for Disney is that they keep throwing in the darn loop around the bases. I HATE this. you kick up dirt and dust into the heels of your shoes or on the backs of your legs and it just cakes because of the sweat you’ve got dripping off of you at that point. I HATE it. Would love to see this come out of the races, but I know many people enjoy it.

Winner: Disney



Race Finish:

Nothing beats the finish line at a race.

A few of the non-disney races have had confusing finish lines or finisher shoots that go on seemingly forever.

Disney doesn’t have this one in the bag though. I wish ice was available sooner at each race or was in the same spot or something. Also, I feel like I get turned around and confused as I’m going through the shoot to get out. I was really disappointed at the Marathon in January because there was a large wall blocking much of the shoot. So as a spectator I ended up missing my husband come through.

I feel like I don’t feel like I’ve finished until I am back to my family or see my family and Disney races make this difficult. Philly was probably the best for meeting up with people and one of the best for spectators to watch at the finish line.

Winner: Tie


Finisher Area/Family Reunion Area:

I really give Disney credit for setting up tents with the alphabet to help families find each other. I also recently learned that there are public cell phones to use to get in touch with family members. I can’t comment on if other races have these cell phones since I usually run with mine in my spibelt.

I feel like it was easier for family to see and find runners at non-disney races. There are tons of bottle-neck issues at the Disney races and I saw very few signs or posted maps to help guide family members. It is also crazy-crowded at disney races. Oh, and as a note…Disney can be difficult for runners to get around to see various parts of the race — one disadvantage of having the race almost entirely on property.

Winner: Non-Disney



Disney races just keep getting more and more expensive!  It is very frustrating and a definite deterrent for runners. There is the added value of the additional course support and entertainment, but the cost is prohibitive for those on a limited budget.

That’s not to say other races are cheap. There are some very affordable races, but if you’re doing a 10k, half, or full, you can expect to have put put out some dough.

Winner: Tie — Disney’s added value is so great, but the entry price at other races is better.



Disney – II

Non-Disney – II

Tie – III


Overall: Here’s my lame total…its a tie.

Here’s why…

I LOVE running Disney because I love Disney. So the value for the price is totally worth it to me. If you LOVE running and that’s really you’re motivation, you will probably be happier at a non-disney event. Especially if you’re fast. Do not expect to run disney and not encounter walkers or walk/runners. Disney is for “fun” runners which is what I love.


Other thoughts:

You should research a race before you register for it. Look at some information from people who have run it before to gain an understanding of the atmosphere/attitude of the race. You’ll want to know a few things: how often are there fluids on the course, is there any food/fuel on the course, what food/water is on the course, how are the spectators, how is transportation to/from the finish line, look at the course map and look for elevation and where elevation occurs, blingity bling bling (Nike takes the cake with their Tiffany necklace, but I do love my disney medals!), and location (travel/non-travel).


Best wishes if you decide to take on ANY race. I’m always around for tips/pointers/feedback. Lord knows I’ve done pretty much everything wrong that I could possibly do wrong.


See ya real soon!